What you need to know about coronavirus impact on the 2020 Fantasy baseball season

The MLB season won’t be starting on time after the league announced a two-week postponement of opening day due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus — and the delay could extend much longer than that. This has obvious implications for the Fantasy baseball community, as we were just about to hit the home stretch of draft season.

While there are certainly bigger things to worry about, sports often serve a refuge for many of us. With no actual sports to watch for the foreseeable future, you can at least keep preparing for your eventual drafts, whenever they might be. I wanted to take some time to talk about what the postponement means for Fantasy players and how you should handle whatever upcoming drafts you have, how it might affect player values and what our coverage is going to look like for however long we’re without baseball.

What it means for CBS Fantasy

We’re going to be operating as usual throughout the time the season is postponed for both baseball and football coverage. For baseball, that means we’re in perpetual Draft Prep mode. We were getting ready for the start of the season on March 26 by pushing out updates to our biggest draft prep pieces — sleepers, breakouts and busts; tiers; mock drafts; The Case For and Against The Top 200 Players — and we’ll still be hitting all of that.

But we’ll also have more time to go a bit deeper than that. Expect more deep dives on players, more Draft Day dilemma answers and just more draft prep in general. We’re going to have time to do more analysis than usual, and we’re going to make the best of it.

We’ll also continue to record and publish the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast and newsletter Monday through Friday. We’ll have to get creative with these shows, so expect plenty of mailbags (email us at FantasyBaseball@CBSi.com) and even “Ask Fantasy Baseball Today Anything” live recordings on our Facebook page.

It’s not going to be business as normal, but we know you might need more diversions than usual these days, and we hope we can be some small part of that.

What this means for Fantasy baseball

If you’re looking for concrete answers, there aren’t going to be any for a while. This suspension of the season could be over by mid-April, but that seems like a pretty optimistic projection at this point. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported the season may not begin until May, and even that may be optimistic.

What that means for those of you who haven’t drafted your teams yet — and that is most of you — is it’s time to postpone your draft as well. Many Fantasy drafts were set to take place this weekend, and even more were going to go down the following weekend, and it’s time to make sure your commissioner postpones it. In a CBS Fantasy league, you can either move your draft date online or choose “Wait to select a draft type.”

Of course, you could do your draft now — online-only, obviously — but I would recommend waiting given the uncertainty. Uncertainty is always bad for Fantasy, and at this point, the suspension of the season just compounds what we don’t know.

For instance: How does this affect injured players? We had a rash of injuries to big names to sort through in spring training: Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Blake Snell, Carlos Carrasco, Cole Hamels and James Paxton, among others on the pitching side; Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Michael Conforto, Willie Calhoun, Mitch Haniger, Gary Sanchez, Yordan Alvarez and Alex Verdugo on the hitting side. With reporters away from the teams, we probably won’t get many updates on these players for a while, but it’s not inconceivable they could all be ready by Opening Day now — whenever that might be.

So, you should probably move them up on your draft boards. I took Verlander 27th overall in a 15-team league Roto draft we did Friday, but it seemed like everyone else in the draft was still scared off him just a bit. I think it was the right move, given the delay, but the truth is, we just don’t know.

Delaying your draft allows you to have a bit more certainty as to what the season is going to look like — when it might start, who might be available, and perhaps most importantly, how long it might be.

If the league starts in mid-April, they can probably squeeze a full 162-game season in — maybe they shorten or remove the All-Star break to make up a few extra days, however the earlier scheduled start date this season gives them a bit more leeway to avoid playing games deep into November. However, if the delay stretches into May or beyond, it’s hard to see a full 162-game season getting played.

There is some precedent for that. Obviously, the strike-shortened seasons of 1994 and 1995, plus 1981, as well as the 1918 season that saw every team play just 123 games as a result of the flu pandemic of that year. MLB would almost certainly want to avoid canceling any games, but depending on how long it takes for things to return to some sense of normalcy, it might become inevitable.

In which case, that could have severe ramifications for several groups of players. For the likes of Michael Pineda and Domingo German, their suspensions would take up even more of the season, lessening their value. And for pitchers who were likely looking at limited workloads, either due to youth or injury concerns, their chances of making a significant impact obviously go up if the total number of games goes down.

But, again, this is all speculation. That’s all we can do right now, unfortunately. Which is why it makes the most sense for you to postpone your draft. It’s better to delay the draft than draft with this much unknown.

Hopefully, things will start to return to normal soon. Until then, we’ll be here, talking and writing about Fantasy sports to help you prepare for your seasons, whenever it begins.  

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